Berri Remains Mum on Change and Reform Proposal, Says ‘Others Should Talk with Aoun’

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Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to comment on a proposal made by Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc to make a constitutional amendment aimed at resolving the presidential deadlock.

But Berri reiterated in remarks published in local dailies on Friday that “we haven’t yet crossed the red line.”

“We can still elect a new president and hold the parliamentary elections. We have a deadline that ends on November 16,” he said.

The Change and Reform bloc proposed on Thursday a draft-law that calls for a limited constitutional amendment allowing direct presidential elections.

Baabda Palace has been left vacant since President Michel Suleiman’s six-year tenure ended in May. The rival MPs have failed to elect a successor over their differences on a compromise candidate.

The vacancy in the country’s top Christian post and the looming parliamentary elections raised fears of more vacuum in top institutions.

Some parliamentary blocs are calling for another extension of the legislature’s term, while others, including Berri, are rejecting such a move.

“My priority was and still is the presidency,” said the speaker, adding he was exerting efforts with Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat, who is touring top Lebanese officials, to hold the presidential elections swiftly.

Asked if he had discussed with Aoun about his candidacy for the presidency, Berri said: “I talked to him but others should talk with him as well.”

The FPM chief has not officially announced his candidacy but has said he would run for the presidency if there was consensus on him. The lawmakers of his Change and Reform bloc are among those boycotting the parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a head of state.

The boycott, which has caused a lack of quorum, is a message of rejection of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea’s candidacy.

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